Professor leads team creating test to quickly detect prostate cancer
A team of researchers from the University and the University of Pennsylvania are working to bring a biosensor to doctors’ offices that quickly detects the recurrence of prostate cancer.
The test is available in clinical laboratories, but there’s an need for it to be easily accessible and affordable, according to the team’s principal investigator and professor of electrical and computer engineering Dmitri Litvinov.
“It would be nice if the doctor could do it on the spot, because one can imagine that somebody who has had a cancer will always have anxiety,” Litvinov said. “The faster you know the result the better.”
Litvinov’s team includes co-principle investigator Richard Willson, a chemical and biomolecular engineering professor. Alongside them is Ping Wang, an associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s hospital.
The team aims to benefit prostate cancer patients who have high risk for recurrence, because they have undergone radical prostatectomy, the surgical removal of a prostate gland, but have positive surgical margins with cancer cells detected at the edge of the removed tissue, Litvinov said.
“It requires an extra effort, and then you need to go to the doctor,” Litvinov said. “They need to have a professional phlebotomist get the blood sample shipped somewhere somewhere you’re not, put to the lab and within a few days you’ll get the result.”
Litvinov said that if a patient receives treatment in an urban area, there’s easier access to up-to-date laboratories and tests they need and can get results quickly.
However, if a patient lives in a rural area this process isn’t as easy
The biosensor is expected to cost under $3 per test and would appear similar to a pregnancy test with an electronic readout. Both are lateral flow assay tests that work by detecting the presence of biomarkers, which are condition-specific biomolecules.
The biosensor will use an ultrasensitive detection of magnetic nanoparticles trapped in a test line to find prostate-specific antigen in the blood.
Litvinov said that once the prostate is removed there should be no PSA in the patient’s blood, then the cancer isn’t present. If PSA is found and the cancer has spread then some intervention will be required, Litvinov said.
“Anybody that has gone through cancer treatment will always have a high level of anxiety,” Litvinov said. “The easier you can make the test, the more rapid, on the spot results.”